Menendez files as independent candidate in New Jersey Senate race

Indicted Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey filed for reelection Monday as an independent.

His decision to file as an independent, first reported by The New Jersey Globe, comes the day before a New Jersey primary in which three Democrats and four Republicans are vying for their parties’ nominations for the seat he currently holds.

Menendez, who is facing federal corruption charges and is on trial in New York City, had announced in March that he would not run for a fourth full term as a Democrat, but left open the possibility of an independent bid if exonerated. He faces a Tuesday deadline to file as an independent. New Jersey’s deadline for independent candidates to withdraw from the ballot is August 16.

His presence in the race could make the Senate contest in New Jersey more unpredictable, with control of the chamber hanging in the balance. Democrats hold a narrow majority but face a difficult election map this fall.

“It displeases me to have to go this route, thanks to overzealous prosecutors, but I will do what must be done to continue to uphold my oath of office for my constituents,” Menendez said in a statement Monday evening.

“As I have said before; I have committed no crime. I am more confident than ever that New Jerseyans and the rest of the American public will see me exonerated of what I am being accused of, and I will be re-elected to the Senate once again,” he continued.

Rep. Andy Kim, the Democratic front-runner in Tuesday’s primary, criticized what he said were Menendez’s self-interested motives.

“Americans are fed up with politicians putting their own personal benefit ahead of what’s right for the country,” Kim said in a statement. “Everyone knows Bob Menendez isn’t running for the people of New Jersey, he’s doing it for himself. It’s beyond time for change and I’m stepping up to restore integrity back into the U.S. Senate.”

Menendez’s federal corruption trial is in its fourth week. The senator, New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, and Menendez’s wife, Nadine, are accused of engaging in a bribery scheme and acting as foreign agents for the Egyptian government. All four have pleaded not guilty.

The trial has featured hundreds of text messages, emails, images and voicemails sent between the senator, Nadine Menendez, Hana and an array of friends and business associates with alleged roles in the bribery scheme.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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